For many of us who grew up evangelical, the word “compromise” has always been a bad word. It means to allow non-Christian values and influences to corrupt your devotion to Biblical truth. Frank Schaeffer, the son of the evangelical leader who started the modern Religious Right, claims that our government shutdown and its Tea Party architects cannot be understood apart from this fundamental characteristic of the evangelical ethos. Insofar as the Tea Party is an evangelical phenomenon, I think he may be right. Evangelicals are raised to be a people of no compromise. And it all starts with an understanding of Jesus’ cross that makes God into Darth Vader and turns us into cookie-cutter stormtroopers devoted to His imperial cause. Continue Reading
Whatever your opinion about whose fault it is, our government has gotten beyond ridiculous. Many people from my church are out of work because of the government shutdown. So I thought for the sake of some absurdist comic relief, I would start a game of “Would you refuse to negotiate if…?” The way you play the game is to think of the most ridiculous expectations that neighbors, husbands, wives, or kids could have for someone else to “negotiate” with them. Please add your own in the comment section. Continue Reading
American politicians are eager to use the Catholic church when it comes to certain topics related to sexuality. But what about when the pope calls upon the whole world to fast and pray for peace in Syria, which is what Francis has asked us to do today? Is it just the impotent, ceremonial gesture that the pundits will make it out to be, since Obama knows that his foreign policy legacy will be “toast” if he doesn’t make good on his promise to blow up a certain quota of Syrian buildings? Or could the worldwide prayer and fast actually exert the same power that an insignificant Galilean carpenter wielded on a Roman cross 2000 years ago to change the course of history? What will you choose to believe? Continue Reading
An official clown at the Missouri state fair wearing an Obama mask with a broom stuck up his butt. The announcer whipped the crowd into a frenzy asking if they wanted to see the Obama clown get run down by a bull. Nope, no racism going on here. None at all. The Missouri state fair by the way is a taxpayer-subsidized event, but it’s not socialism because it involves cowboys.
David Brooks really fired me up today with this zinger about how Egypt’s turmoil proves that “Islamists… lack the mental equipment to govern.” America’s moralistic self-justification for every time we have invaded a country of brown people (the last white country we invaded was Germany) is that we are bringing them the democracy that will save them. Except that it never works, at least not as we planned. Inevitably they elect “socialist radicals” or “religious fundamentalists” so the CIA has to fix the problem by finding some Contras or a Pinochet to pull off a coup, which David Brooks officially approves in his column if it removes people unfit for democracy (who are presumably comparable to our 7% approval rating Congress?). In any case, it’s all Obama’s fault just like it was all Bush’s fault, because it’s the responsibility of the US president to support the freedom fighters except when they’re terrorists unless the dictator has used chemical weapons, and whatever happens, it can be pinned on the US president because a democracy means one person is in charge and responsible for everything… Wait! Continue Reading
There has never been a time when somebody in our government was not misbehaving in some kind of way, whether it’s overthrowing democratically elected presidents of other countries or tailoring legislation to fill the pockets of campaign donors. The latest misbehavior has involved the surveillance of the Associated Press by the Justice Department as part of an investigation of leaks of classified information and the targeted scrutiny of conservative political “non-profits” by the IRS. The sad irony in these incidents is that the government is behaving undemocratically and very clumsily in response to issues that are legitimately undermining our democracy. Continue Reading
A number of people in my church have been impacted by the game of chicken known as sequestration that Obama and the Republicans are playing with one another. Almost everyone either works for the civilian sector of the government, a government contractor, or the military. Several people have lost their jobs; many have been furloughed. And that’s why I’m more than a little bit hot about the way that Congress has suddenly bolted in action to exempt the FAA from sequestration rules so that people won’t have to wait in line at airports. It’s an illustration of the uniquely American religious belief in ideology without consequences. Continue Reading
There’s something attractive about Mark Driscoll to Methodists in a Clint Eastwood (pre-chair-incident) kind of way. We often see our denomination’s attendance decline as punishment for our unwillingness to “stand up for the truth,” “call sin a sin,” use words like hell and Satan and wrath in our sermons, etc. We’re surrounded by independent evangelical megachurches whose preachers have booming baritone voices that tell it like it is, which is why they’re growing faster than any tower Babel ever built. And then Driscoll tweets this:
One of the most cogent things that Barack Obama said during his 2008 presidential campaigns was that he would sit down with America’s enemies since it’s bad strategy to “punish” them by not talking with them. He was widely ridiculed by people whose heroes Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon accomplished their greatest foreign policy achievements with the USSR and China precisely through their willingness to treat America’s enemies with dignity, which happened in a different time before American politics became an adolescent conversation. It has been painful to watch Obama walk back his stance so thoroughly that instead of continuing the somewhat successful (though expensive) counter-insurgency strategy of building relationships with enemies that worked in Iraq, now he sends in drones to speak with bombs and missiles instead. How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone if Kennedy had “refused to negotiate with terrorists”? Probably about as well as the Gaza disaster is going for Israel. The Communists were no less ideologically committed to the fall of America than Hamas is committed to the fall of Israel. And yet instead of negotiating with Ahmed al-Jabari, the Hamas military chief, Israel assassinated him, which was a huge strategic blunder if they have a genuine interest in peace.
What I learned from last night’s final presidential debate (which was the first one I watched) is that the way you “win” mostly has to do with how long you can talk without taking a breath or how willing you are to yell “Liar, liar, pants on fire” while the other guy is in the middle of what he’s saying. The fundamental thing Romney and Obama agreed on is the importance of projecting strength in US foreign policy. “Strength” seems to be defined as not apologizing for anything the US has done in the past and making sure that other nations understand that the US knows what’s best for them. I realize we live in a secular nation-state, but I am really bothered by how thoroughly un-Biblical that way of thinking is. Whether or not it’s effective foreign policy from a realpolitik perspective, the Bible calls us to integrity, not strength.